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ECUADOR | Tuesday, 14 October 2008 | Views [2815]

Girls at at Juyuintza tribe- Ecuadorian Amazon

Girls at at Juyuintza tribe- Ecuadorian Amazon

I was dying! It was summer, and although I love the heat, it was so ridiculously hot! I nearly threw a kiddie tantrum this morning when I had to work in the chacra for about twenty minutes… well not really, but I did have to keep reminding myself, while I weeded under the yuca trees (with hundreds of bugs swarming on me) how good nature really is.


I was at Hernan`s house, and the fresh food there was once again magnificent! Fresh pineapple juice, papaya, fish, yucca, eggs… the lot!


In the afternoon I painted my chicha pots that I had created the previous week, and then fried and glossed one with sap from a tree. My paintings on the first chicha dish looked like a five year olds', well, maybe a three year olds'. I had painted a butterfly and a snake because my dream the night before had consisted of three large snakes and a butterfly-bird type animal that kept kissing my nose.


While I was painting, I saw some of the kids whacking the bottom of the thatched roof to get cockroaches to come out. As they were flying cockroaches, the kids were running about and jumping up and down to try and catch them. I asked as a half joke if they were going to eat them, because I wasn't too sure why they were collecting them. They said no, Phew, and then showed me three cute, little black birds in which they fed the roaches to. I also watched as one of the girls got food for the birds by smacking butterflies to death on the ground with her machete.




In the morning when I woke up, I was in a bit of a foul mood, so I kept telling myself I`m going to have a fantastic day, all the way to the president's (Hernan's) house. I ended up having a pretty fantastic day! I began by painting the rest of my chicha dishes, and I must say, they turned out a fair bit better than the first one. Then I fired, ashed and sapped them all to the finish. I gave two to their family, one to Fanni (my first one, which she laughed at in a nice way), and I left one there for me for when I hopefully return.


During the day Ernan (Hernan`s son) who had been working on building the cabañas with Javier and Marco, brought back to the house, a large violet-blue coloured bird known as a Violaceous Jay, and another huge animal called an agouti, which looks like a massive rat-rabbit. We ate the agouti for lunch, and I preferred it fried rather than boiled.


After a windy afternoon storm, I walked back to the main port of the village, and went for a bath in the river. I looked up and to my surprise saw something moving… it was a large turtle, tied up, which Señora Rosa ended up eating later on. My family would be very happy to know that I ate like a princess in the tribe… sometimes I even ate with a knife and fork!! Well a princess in comparison anyhow, as I chose not to hock up spit next to the dinner table.




In the morning when I went to Guadalupe's house for breakfast, I saw one of her cute puppies, but couldn't find the other. I asked where it was and they told me it died. Quite frankly, I wasn't surprised the way the dogs are treated… or rather not treated.


I went for a walk later in the jungle with Guadalupe and her baby to collect hard, spiky bits from a plant's branches, so that we could later make brooms at her house. She was pretty eager for me to try out the broom, so I did for a bit and then handed it to one of her children to have a go of.


Later, in the night, a canoe arrived full of people from another community who were journeying north. They showed me an alligator that they had caught in the river and were going to eat for breakfast the next day. I didn't get much sleep through the night as the visitors talked in the community hut, where I was sleeping, from about 2am to 6pm. Oh, and the kids were continually hocking up spit, loudly, for fun, and I'm sure one of them may have possibly been a chipmunk with that voice of his!




I decided it was time for me to go- well actually, about three days before when my repellent began to run out, but I was sure it was going to take at least another few days to arrange a plane back to the city. I also made my decision based upon the fact that I suddenly had flying cockroaches surrounding my bed, and I didn't exactly have a barrier.


During the day, I made some plates and bowls of eating, out of clay, with Guadalupe. I spoke for a bit with the teacher, whose name is Erwin, about his eight years of working in the tribe. He told me I could sit in on one of his classes, which I was very much looking forward to.




When Monica (who I had just found out is pregnant), one of Guadalupe's daughters, Fanny, and two young boys and I went to look for food in the jungle the next day, someone heard a pig, and we all climbed up a tree. Now, these pigs aren't the cute little pink type, oh no no no, they're big, black, spiky haired pigs, with sharp teeth that can rip through the flesh of your entire calf. They are called jabali here. Everyone was so silent and serious after this when we were walking back Fanni was leading and would stop every fifty metres or so, with everyone waiting behind her in silence, so that we could hear where the jabali was. Thankfully we all got back in one piece.




That same night, while listening to the sounds of the dogs fighting and howling, I continued to have to shoe off the cockroaches lurking around my bed. When I was satisfied with their disappearance, I hopped under the mosquito net into the bed. Unfortunately, two cockroaches had decided to join me for the night, until I quickly scared them out. I then completely surrounded the inside of the net with books so that it would be more difficult for them to enter, and then tried to get to sleep. It was difficult to sleep though, as I kept hearing the little critters going about their business next to me, but I just kept telling myself that at least they were cleaner that city cockroaches… and that's pretty clean.




I went to school with the children on their first day back from holidays. The first thing I saw was one of the parents giving a behavioural speech to the kids while breastfeeding her baby. I never saw that in any of the schools I went to in Sydney, Australia. I'm pretty sure that's because just about all schools in most cities have completely lost all touch with natural reality. There were 24 kids, and as it was their first day, there was also a fair amount of crying. I nearly cried too when I found out the first lesson was mathematics. The teacher actually asked the kids what they wanted to learn! I certainly didn't get asked this at school, and I certainly wouldn't have chosen maths.


During the ½ hour break, when the children went off to play, someone came back to the outside of the school (where many adults, were sitting drinking chicha after working on the new teacher's house), and began screaming ``Colebra!`` (snake). We went up to the community hut and found out that the same child that had been bitten by a deadly snake when I first arrived had once again been bitten by a different deadly snake… this time on the hand. The type of snake (which had been killed after the incident by someone), is Bothriopsis bilineata viperidae.


Class was stopped as the teacher was radioing for help and the kids all kept stuck crowded around the boy. (Gustabe is his name). He cried and cried as his hand continued to swell. We waited hours for the emergency plane. I went to Guadalupe's hut, and we continued making plates and bowls, but when I returned to my sleeping quarters for a moment to get something, Edwin told me that a message had been sent through the radio, for me to also get on the plane. So I packed as quickly as I could, and was still packing even when I could hear the plane coming. I shoved the remainder of the things in my bag and went to the plane without even having time to say goodbye to everyone. It was all a bit muddled, and I wasn't quite sure how to act because there was a child slowly dying from a snake bit right next to me. Should I wave with a huge smile, or look a bit sad for the boy's sake?? It was a tad bit awkward, but there was really nothing I could do about the situation. Fanni was at the other end of the airstrip, and luckily the pilot decided to roll the plane down to near her house, and take off from the community side of the strip. I ended up getting to wave goodbye to her and making out a bit of a joke that I was wiping away a tear. She looked so shocked that I was leaving, and I felt shocked not having sufficient time to give her a big hug goodbye.


I knew that once I went back to the city, my beautiful dreams of nature would begin to fade. My calmed mind and body was soon to be crowded with the unnatural.

If you would like to take an Ikiam Expedition and venture into the village, volunteer or donate, visit www.ikiam.info/  


Contact Pascual Kunchicuy
From Abroad: (593) 9 832 3637, and (593) 9 769 2988
From Ecuador: 09 832 3637 y 09 769 2988
Or by email: [email protected] and [email protected]

There are volunteer positions currently open in the Shiwiar territory for people who are experienced in one or more of the following areas:


Website design 

Translating with Spanish, English and French speaking abilities.

English teaching (for one of the Shiwiar territory high schools.)

The Ikiam Expedition is in need of a donation; a small plane and pilot training for improved medical access.  

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